May 31st, 2012
01:27 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney makes surprise visit to Solyndra

Fremont, California (CNN) – In a tightly-guarded surprise campaign stop, Mitt Romney visited failed energy company Solyndra Thursday and invoked the building as a symbol of what he called President Obama's misuse of taxpayer dollars.

The visit - kept a secret by the campaign until shortly before the candidate and the press arrived at the site - offered a hulking visual to accompany Romney’s repeated criticism of Obama over the Solyndra scandal.

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Standing on a gritty embankment across the street from Solyndra’s edifice, Romney called the glass-fronted building the “Taj Mahal” of corporate headquarters and a symbol “gross waste” and accused the president of cronyism.

“This building, this half a billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team,” Romney said. “It's also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

The solar energy company based outside San Francisco went bankrupt less than two years after receiving a $535 million loan in 2009 from the Department of Energy.

The Thursday visit was kept a tight secret by the Romney campaign, which told reporters they needed to travel in a campaign bus to an undisclosed location.

A Romney adviser said the campaign had concealed the event location for fear the Obama administration would somehow prevent them from staging it.

During his news conference, Romney alluded to protests organized by Democratic activists that have disrupted several previous campaign events, and said his campaign had wanted to head off any efforts by his rivals to keep him from speaking.

“I think that there are people who don’t want to see this event occur, don’t want to have questions asked about this particular investment, don’t want to have people delve into the idea that the president took a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money and devoted it to an enterprise that was owned in large measure by his campaign contributors,” he said. “I think there are a number of people among the president’s team that don’t want that story to get out. We wanted to make sure it did.”

Obama administration officials have called the failed Solyndra loan a disappointing result in their ongoing support of innovative technology and have vowed to continue investing in clean energy.

“Over the course of this first term, we will have doubled the use of renewable energy in this country,” David Axelrod, Obama campaign senior adviser, said Thursday in an interview to air on CNN’s “John King, USA.”

He added Romney was simply using the Solyndra stop as a “diversion” from recent attacks against his corporate career in private equity

“One thing the president never did was buy a company, load it up with debt, bankrupt that company, and walk away with millions of dollars while the creditors and the workers were left holding an empty bag,” Axelrod said, taking a shot at Romney’s former firm, Bain Capital. “The president’s never done that.”

Romney's visit to Solyndra was the latest step in a continued push from Team Romney and Republicans to paint the president as harmful for job creation, which has used Solyndra as its central argument. The Republican National Committee released a video Thursday, which followed similar efforts from the Romney campaign and Crossroads GPS, an independent conservative group.

- Watch the full interview with Axelrod at 6 p.m. ET on CNN's "John King, USA"

Also see:

Obama campaign launches assault on Romney's Massachusetts record

Obama campaign releases third set of Spanish ads

Gonzales says Romney must make personal connection to Hispanics

Wisconsin guv up in third straight poll

Filed under: 2012 • Energy • Mitt Romney
soundoff (408 Responses)
  1. David

    Why blamed Obama for Solyndra? I'm not sure if he's aware that the Bush administration made a deal with Solyndra for loan guarantee for 10 years in 2006.

    May 31, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  2. Gezellig

    Mitt Romney's and Donald Trump's vacations from reality are spooky and frightening. If Mitt Romney fears the power of the Presidency, what does that say about what he is projecting into the office he seeks to hold. If he sees the President as someone who would do everything in his power to stop his opponent from campaigning in a public place, then what kind of President does that say that he would be?

    May 31, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. The Nudge

    Why doesn't he pay a visit to GM? Oh, that's because it was hugely successful and to think this slimeball wants credit for GM now? Mittens is a pandering fool. Must be nice to be campaiging full time for over 6 yrs.; sadly there are plenty of idiots in this country who'll support him. I hope the next war, if he gets elected there surely will be more, is paid for by the wealthy this time around. The GOP is quick to start wars, but whine like babies when someone has to pay for them.

    May 31, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Romney is a FRAUD attempting to change his identity as a failed Governor and a hijacker of companies for profit at the expense of it's employees who lost their pension, retirement and jobs.

    May 31, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  5. DemWhisperer

    I am voting for Romney.

    Obama is trying to turn us into Greece, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy.

    May 31, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  6. george of the jungle

    remember this when the president says something about the way romney ran his stae and the repos all start yelling he is being unfair. Romney is a turd who is run by big money and will do what they say. Obama 2012

    May 31, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  7. Myviewis

    Maybe Solyndra's unemployed employees found jobs at Bain or Bain Capital?

    May 31, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  8. bosk567

    Bain invested with money given. Obama invested with money taken, with zero success. Why is obama so cruel and heartless? He's broken so many dreams of the average American all for nothing.

    May 31, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. philhanner

    Obama has failed. Time for liberals to stop blaming Bush and move on. Socialism and Marxism has failed everywhere. Let's stick with what works. Solyndra is a total failure for Obama and making up BS tales about Apple, McDonald's, HP, or Bain won't change that. The only jobs BHO has created is the ones at Marlboro from sucking on cigarettes and being the poster child for being "cool".

    May 31, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. george of the jungle

    and this proves what???

    May 31, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. OPEN400

    The Chinese want the solar energy market and illegally dumped solar panels onto the international market place. The American oil companies,who have Romney in their pocket, do not want solar power because they have not figured out a way they legally own the sun beams hitting earth. Government waste? Why not visit a military contractor? How about the 50 BILLION a year that the Defense Department does not need to account for for national security reasons? Who knows where that money goes? What don't they give us an accouting of where the secret slush fund money goes after there is no more national security tied to the expenditure?

    May 31, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. NotFooledByDistractions

    Obama invested in green energy companies to improve American competitiveness, create jobs, and boost energy innovation, which is what a president should do – while Romney invested in companies to generate returns for investors. Can romney explain how he plans to do a complete 180 on his business mindset and work for what's best for the nation? He hasn't so far.

    May 31, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. Kevin

    Sounds like all you Obama-lovers are running out of arguments. This was a huge FAIL by Obama admin, and yet you keep calling Romney a bully and out of touch. Stop sticking up for Obama, this was a FAILURE and obviously Romney is going to highlight the President's failures. It's your job as a citizen to hold him accountable for it.

    May 31, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. anotherGDlefty

    Will he visit ANY of the empty buildings left in his wake at Bain?
    Is he not proud enough of his Bain accomplishments to stand in front of a closed factory now and proclaim how he will create jobs by destroying them?

    May 31, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. beevee

    I might ask the moron the same question about the revival of auto industry when government has put in millions of dollars to prop them. They are doing extraordinarily well. If the government did not as Romney strongly adovated, the whole economy would have been in far worst shape. So much for Romney's business experience as a qualification to lead the country. He will ditch it.

    May 31, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  16. Chipster

    What an idiot! I'm sure no one would try, even if they wanted to, to prevent this yo-yo from visiting Solyndra. Maybe he will actually learn something about green energy. Perhaps someone will explain to him that dinosaurs are gone and all the oil and gas resources are being depleted. As a candidate for President, it would be good to ask him if he thinks we should wait until the last drop – the last lump – the last natural gas well is dead and gone before investing in renewable sources of energy? Maybe someone will ask WHY should we pay billions and billions in subsidies to oil & gas companies that are earning 40-50-60% profits right now and refuse to invest in wind, solar, hydro-, bio-, and other forms of renewable energy; even if some of them may not succeed right away! It's called "vision" and I'd like my president to have it. Obama does. Romney doesn't even have imagination; much less vision!

    May 31, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. Mark

    When you can't argue on the merits, change the subject. Then, build up and destroy a straw man.
    And to answer Romney's question, nobody will invest in such a scenario. And they aren't, as demonstrated by the lack of economic growth over the last 5 years.

    May 31, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. downWithMitt

    This company would have been long gone if Mitt was in charge, he would have fired them all. This guy is bad news and this is the best the republicans can come up with?

    May 31, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. Luke,AZ

    Willard Robme is the best that the Republican party can come up with to lead their party. Sad. He is the perfect pick for the 1%, easily manipulated with no core convictions. Spend some time and study the mormon faith,you'll be surprised at what you will find.

    May 31, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. bosk567

    The capitalist vs. the communist. Romney will fix what Obama broke.

    May 31, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans are having a hard time knowing who Romney really is, so how in the H do they expect the American people to know. Oh, I forgot, they are trying to reinvent him.

    May 31, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  22. Anonymous


    Re: Ohio man – then at least Solyndra would be in business and employing people, even if a number of them are overseas. There would also be a number of jobs here in the U.S. That alternative is better than having a business shut down and headquarters sitting empty like it is now.

    Why are you bitter that Mitt Romney profited from trying to help companies (he was 88% successful with the companies)? Am I bitter if you get paid a wage for your work (or that you collect disability or social security)? No

    YOu make no sence in what you are saying.. so buying a company and shiping it overseas helps the US how????.. and thats just like saying put all your money in the cayman islands so the US can benefit from the taxes of it.. lol... nice try though.. and I'm not bitter at a person that plays the stock market with companies..nothing wrong with flipping your money just dont say your plan all along was to create jobs.. thats my point..

    May 31, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. GI Joe

    Robme will go for the sympathy vote with his wife's illnesses (full health care coverage and help around the house) while he takes away our health care and outsources our jobs to China and India - whchever makes him the most money.

    May 31, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. mj

    David – The Bush Administration turned the request down. They believed it was not a secure venture. Stop with the BIOB! Obama pushed this forward for political and financial gains to cronies. This was the largest of many checks mailed to Green Energy Companies that have all failed and filed bankruptcy.

    May 31, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Ohio man


    Re: Ohio man – then at least Solyndra would be in business and employing people, even if a number of them are overseas. There would also be a number of jobs here in the U.S. That alternative is better than having a business shut down and headquarters sitting empty like it is now.

    Why are you bitter that Mitt Romney profited from trying to help companies (he was 88% successful with the companies)? Am I bitter if you get paid a wage for your work (or that you collect disability or social security)? No.


    you make no sense... so how does shiping jobs oversea help the us workers?????... and thats just like saying put your money in the cayman islands so the US can benifit from the taxes.. lol... and I'm not bitter at Mitt.. how can i be mad a person that plays the stock market with companies... nothing wrong with flipping your money for profit just dont go around saying your intention where to create jobs.. thats all im saying..

    May 31, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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